Wed, Dec 05, 2007 - Page 11 News List

Cathay cabin crew threaten to strike over health benefits


Hong Kong-based carrier Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd could face major disruptions over its Christmas period if flight attendants launch a threatened strike to protest a new medical insurance plan.

Cathay cabin crew will hold a demonstration on Monday to protest the new policy, which requires all staff to pay a standard fee for doctor and specialist consultations, union general secretary T.K. Lee said yesterday.

"We will have to see what happens after that as to whether we will take industrial action," Lee said. "Our members are very unhappy with the co-payment scheme."

The previous policy offered no co-payments for doctors' visits.

Calling in sick enmasse and refusing to serve passengers on planes were some of the measures union members had discussed at a meeting on Monday, he said. The union covers about 4,900 staff.

If the agitation goes ahead, it would be the first time in nearly 15 years that Cathay cabin crew have gone on strike.

The new medical insurance policy, to take effect Jan. 1, requires junior staff to pay HK$30 (US$3.8) to see a doctor and HK$50 to see a specialist. Senior staff pay HK$50 for a consultation with the doctor, and HK$100 for a specialist.

Take-home pay for an entry-level cabin crew member is about HK$15,000 a month.

Lee said the union had sent a letter to Cathay management yesterday urging them to hold talks, but had not yet heard back.

Hong Kong is a key regional hub for Cathay, with more than 100 flights daily to Asia, the US and Europe.

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